BivySak: They Ship. You Explore.
BivySak, unlike some of the other subscription boxes I’ve reviewed here, ships quarterly. This means, of course, it’s a little more expensive on a per-shipment basis. However, if you look at the cost over a three-month period,the price of each shipment is competitive with other boxes, which tend to run about $25 per month.
BivySak has a somewhat confusing pricing model. As mentioned above, they only ship once per quarter (December, March, June, September) but bill you $24.99 monthly. At a certain point in that three-month billing cycle, the $24.99/month option is removed and you’re given the choice to buy the shipment at once for $74.97. At that point, you can also sign up for the next quarterly box and your $24.99 per month billing begins.
At least that’s what I assumed from the website. Because it wasn’t all that clear how the process worked, I fired off an email, and a nice gent by the name of Josh told me that my assumptions were correct.
So I waited until late November and threw down full price for the December 2016 box. Because I waited, I had to pay the full $74.97 for December box. I also opted to be billed $24.99 per month for the next box, which is set to ship in March.
However, once I signed up, I discovered there doesn’t appear to be any easy way to cancel. Under the “Manage Membership” link, you’re taken to a contact page with a form and three buttons: Update Payment (again, no cancel button), Change Address, and Submit Product Idea. Unless I’m missing something, there doesn’t seem to be anyway to even log on to an account. I have a small amount of trepidation about how smoothly the cancellation process will go.
But until then, I’m getting a box full of gear, so let’s look inside.
The BivySak December 2016 box arrived on my doorstep via FedEx (unlike all the other boxes so far, which have arrived in the mail), at around 8:00 at night on December 30th.
The box itself was very nondescript—a plain white affair. Under the lid, the box was filled with five official items and one bonus item. At least I assume it’s a bonus item since there was no mention of it all on the handy informational card that explains each item.
Yeti Custom Rambler 10 oz. Lowball
The Yeti Rambler 10 oz. Lowball is a double-walled drinking glass made of machined aluminum. This one came emblazoned with with the new BivySak logo. (It seems they’ve re-branded, but this new design isn’t reflected on the website yet.) I’ve had my eye on one of these Yeti things for awhile, but I haven’t bought one because I haven’t had an actual need for one. So seeing this inside the box was a nice surprise. Retail price: $40.
I’m going to call a slight foul here. A Yeti 10 oz. Rambler will set you back $20 in a retail shop (even on the Yeti site). This one, however, is from the Yeti Custom Shop, which will put a custom design on the Yeti of your choice. According to the pricing on the Custom Site, a Yeti 10 oz. Rambler will set you back $30. They’ll charge you an extra $10 if you want the design on two sides, but this mug only has a one-sided design. It seems, then, that the price listed on the information card is inflated by $10.
- Usefulness: 8/10. A nice mug that keeps coffee hot on a cold morning is a nice piece of gear.
- Purchasability: 7/10. I’d had my eye on one of these for awhile. It was only a matter of time before I caved to my desires.
- Usability: 7/10. This isn’t a lightweight piece of gear, though. I’ll definitely use it, but it’ll likely be limited to car camping outings.
12 Survivors Paracord Survival Band
It seems like everyone loves a good paracord bracelet these days, and the 12 Survivors Paracord Survival Band packs 17 different tools into one compact piece of adventure jewelry. Many of these tools are related to fishing (hook, line, and sinker), but there’s also 14 feet of paracord, some safety pins, an alcohol pad, a fire-starting rod, and 21 inches of rubber tubing. The 17 is a bit of a lofty claim as some items (safety pins, fishing hooks, and weights) come in pairs and each instance is counted as a single item. But still, if you’re into paracord bracelets, this one’s loaded. Retail price: $12.
- Usefulness: 5/10. I know paracord bracelets are all the rage these days, but I’m just lukewarm on them. And this one, while it packs a lot of goodies, has to be disassembled to reach its full useful potential, which is somewhat of a drawback.
- Purchasability: 1/10. I don’t think I would have ever picked one of these up. It’s just not my thing.
- Usability: 2/10. I’m not going to use it as a bracelet, but I may remove its component parts and put them to use.
Chapul Meal Bars (2)
The food component in the box was a pair of energy bars from Chapul, the original cricket flour protein bar. There were two different flavors—Aztec (dark chocolate, coffee & cayenne) and Chaco (peanut butter & chocolate). As far as taste goes, I preferred the Aztec, but I didn’t even get a hint of cricket flavor in either bar. They were a little on the dry side, though. Retail price: $6.
- Usefulness: 7/10. Food bars are always useful when adventuring. The use of cricket flour is an interesting twist, which is either intriguing to people or a complete turn-off. Personally, I like the idea of insects as a sustainable food source.
- Purchasability: 6/10. I would have likely bought these at least once, if only for the novelty of it. The cricket flour doesn’t bother me, but they aren’t the best bars I’ve had.
- Usability: 7/10. Yes, I already ate these. But I have to ask, “If I had a Chapul bar in my pack, would I reach for it first?” Probably not. But I’d eat it eventually.
The information card that came with the shipment says “Light your night with Lunarbands!” I wasn’t exactly sure how to even use this thing until I visited the Lunarbands website, but I’m not sure there’s much in the way of lighting up a night going on with these. The card also says they use theirs to light maps, trails, and tents during camping trips. Seriously—these are neat toys, but they don’t give off enough light to read a map with any amount of accuracy.
But they are kind of neat if you want to do a little light painting. Retail price: $10.
- Usefulness: 4/10. Light is useful, yes, but these don’t give off enough light to really be an effective flashlight. However, if a whole group of hikers is sporting them they’d be useful for spotting each other in the dark.
- Purchasability: 2/10. It would have been a long shot for me to have purchased one of these.
- Usability: 6/10. I’ll probably bring this along on the next car camping trip, if only to use it for games and fun with photography.
Akinz Colorado Beanie
The information card told me I’d get either the Akinz Colorado Beanie or the Akinz Ahab Beanie. I got the Colorado Beanie. I don’t have anything against Colorado, but I don’t live there and don’t really have any sort of affinity for the state. I would have preferred the Ahab Beanie, but the Colorado Knit Beanie is a nice hat. My daughter wasted no time in claiming it. Retail price: $34.
- Usefulness: 8/10. Hats are useful in that they keep your head warm. And this one certainly does that.
- Purchasability: 1/10. The whole Colorado thing woudl have kept me away. If it had been the Ahab Beanie, then this may have gotten as high as a 6 or 7.
- Usability: 5/10. I’m going right down the middle here. While I’m not going to wear this hat, my daughter has worn it a few times. Again, the Ahab Beanie would have scored an easy 10 here.
Bonus Item: Grabber Warmers Hand Warmers
In addition to the other gear, there were four Hand Warmer packages. Each one holds two warmers (since most people have two hands, I guess) and are as easy to use as opening up the package and exposing the packet to the air. I’m not sure if they were a late addition or just a bonus item, but they weren’t mentioned on the information card. They retail price for a dollar for a two-pack. Retail price: $4.
- Usefulness: 4/10. Useful for really cold weather, I’d guess. I lived in Wisconsin for the first half of my life and never used one, though.
- Purchasability: 0/10. I would not have bought these.
- Usability: 3/10. Since I have a couple of these packs, I’ll probably bring them out to the next group camping trip and let people field test them.
Other Value Items
The box also contained a discount code for 40% off any order from the Akinz website and a “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” coupon for Chapul bars. I didn’t use the Akinz offer before it expired, but if I find a place that sells Chapul bars before the coupon expires, I’ll use it.
Combined Goods Total
The BivySak site claims that each box contains between $100 to $130 worth of gear. This box, however, only held $96 (I’m using the value of $30 for the Custom Yeti Rambler, not BivySak’s stated $40), so the goods here fall just a little short of the promised value.
Unboxed Gear Score
This box totaled 83 points out of a possible 180, earning an Unboxed Gear Score of 46.
The December 2016 BivySak had only five items (six if you count the hand warmers) for $75. Compare that to $25 for 4 items per month with Cairn or Isle Box, and the per-item price for BivySak seems is a little high. The additional $10 on the Custom Yeti Rambler was a little off-putting, and the way they wrote about the Lunarband makes me wonder if the author of the card tried to navigate in the field or put up a tent at night by Lunarband. And the quarterly-shipping-but-monthly-billing model is somewhat confusing, certainly when it comes time to cancel. I’m not looking forward to going through that process.
Unboxed is the continuing report of my personal foray into the world of subscription boxes aimed at the outdoor enthusiast.